Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), seen here addressing the winter session of the National Congress of American Indians in Washington, D.C., on February 14, 2018, was among the Democrats who voted to block further debate on the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)
Opinion | Politics

Gyasi Ross: Democrats turn on tribes and vote against our sovereignty



So a vote to advance the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act failed in spectacular fashion on Monday evening. Gyasi Ross offers his take on the Democrats who turned their backs on a bill to treat tribes the same as states and local governments under federal labor law:
Tonight, the Democratic Party had an actual, affirmative chance to “strengthen, not reduce the power of Indian nations over people who interact with them in Indian Country” as it is alleges it will do in its platform. Yet, in spite of the inspirational language, somehow they showed their spinelessness again and betrayed Native Nations again.

Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran, a Republican, introduced the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act to rectify a bad federal case that treats Native Nations, governments, as private corporations and clarify the way the National Labor Relations Act treats Native Nations (“NLRA”). Under the NLRA, state governments and the federal government are not treated as private--state, local, and federal government employers are excluded from the NLRA definition of “employer“ and that allowed those governments to make their own decisions about labor organizing and workforce policies. Native governmental employers were likewise never included in that definition of “employer”; that made sense—tribal governments are the oldest governments on this continent and they should have the ability to create workforce policy as they see fit. Moreover, they are governments, just like federal, state and local governments, that should have the choice how they interact with labor.

That is sovereignty. If a person believes in sovereignty, sometimes it will be uncomfortable. Sometimes it will not be expedient.

Yet, in 2004, a federal court ruled—seemingly out of thin air—that Native Nations no longer had the sovereign ability to deal with labor in accordance with its own principles and values. States, local and federal governments still could, but Native people could not. This Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act would have rectified this discriminatory treatment and put Native Nations on par with local, federal and state governments. Democrats killed this bill.

Read More on the Story:
Gyasi Ross: Democrats Turn on Native Communities Once Again & Kill Tribal Sovereignty Bill (The Daily Kos April 17, 2018)

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